Shipping Essentials

Gain essential knowledge in our Shipping Essentials category, covering key topics such as Incoterms, FOB and EXW trade terms, and commercial invoices with packing lists. Understand the implications of Incoterms, the distinctions between FOB and EXW, and the importance of accurate documentation in international trade.

Incoterms in 2023


The rights, obligations, expenses, and Risks related to shipping and delivering goods in international commerce transactions are defined by a set of rules  known as Incoterms or International Commercial Terms. They provide a common language and framework for buyers and sellers to negotiate and agree upon the terms of their trade, making it transparent to all parties involved in their transactions. The International Chamber of Commerce is the publisher of Incoterms in 2023 (last updated in 2020), reflecting changes in global trade norms. They are widely used in contracts and provide clarity and consistency in determining various aspects of a transaction, including the point of delivery, transfer of risk, allocation of costs, and documentation requirements.

Incoterms 2023 specifies the following critical elements of a transaction:

  • Point of Transfer (transfer of Risk): They establish when the buyer assumes the risk and when the vendor has fulfilled their responsibility to deliver the products to the agreed location
  • Transport (Costs involved): They specify who is responsible for transportation costs, including insurance, and which party arranges for the main carriage of the goods.
  • Customs and documentation: They clarify the responsibilities of each party regarding export and import clearance procedures, as well as the provision of necessary documents.

Incoterms and their Meaning

There are several Incoterms in 2023, each represented by a three-letter code. The most recent update to the Incoterms was in 2020, and it is effective till date with the following terms:

1. EXW (Ex Works): The buyer is responsible for all transportation and risks after the seller makes the products available on their premises.

2. FCA (Free Carrier): The seller delivers the goods to a carrier or a nominated party specified by the buyer at a named place. The buyer assumes responsibility after the goods are delivered to the carrier, or the nominated party

3. CPT (Carriage Paid To): At a designated location, the seller delivers the items to the carrier or a nominated party established by the seller. The seller is responsible for the costs of transportation to the named destination, while risk has been transferred at origin port- to the buyer!

4. CIP (Carriage and Insurance Paid To): Similar to CPT, but the seller is also responsible for insuring the goods during transportation.

5. DAP (Delivered at Place): The seller delivers the goods to a named place, ready for unloading by the buyer. The seller is responsible for the risk until the products are prepared to be unloaded, while the buyer is resposnible for customs clearance. 

6. DPU (Delivered at Place Unloaded):  It’s the same as DAP, but includes unloading at buyer’s destination, on sellers’s costs and risk.

7. DDP (Delivered Duty Paid): The products are cleared for import and delivered by the vendor to the customer, ready for unloading. 

8. FAS (Free Alongside Ship): The seller unloads the items alongside the vessel at the designated location at origin port. The buyer assumes responsibility once the goods are placed at the designated location. .

9. FOB (Free on Board): The seller delivers the goods on board the vessel at the named port of shipment. The buyer assumes responsibility once the goods are on the ship.

10. CFR (Cost and Freight): It’s the same as CPT, only for Ocean Freight, as the responsibility to the buyer is transferred onboard of the vessel.

11. CIF (Cost, Insurance, and Freight): Similar to CFR, the seller is also responsible for insuring the goods during transportation.

Buyers and sellers need to agree on the appropriate Incoterm to use for their transaction, as it defines each party’s respective obligations and costs.

Why are Incoterms Vital for International Trade?

Incoterms® in 2023 are vital in international trade for several reasons:

1. Clarity and Uniformity: Incoterms® provide a standardized set of terms and definitions that facilitate clear communication and understanding between buyers and sellers across different countries and legal systems. They make sure that both parties are aware of the expenses, risks, and obligations associated with the transaction.

2. Allocation of Costs and Risks: Incoterms® define which party (the buyer or the seller) is in charge of particular expenses, including shipping, insurance, customs duties, and taxes. They also decide when responsibility for the items passes from the seller to the buyer. Incoterms® assist in preventing misunderstandings, disagreements, and significant financial losses by precisely identifying these features.

3. International Legal Framework: Incoterms® in 2023 are recognized and accepted internationally. They provide a framework for resolving disputes related to the interpretation and application of trade terms. In the event of a disagreement or conflict, Incoterms® can be referenced to determine the intent and obligations of the parties involved.

4. Efficient Logistics and Supply Chain Management: Incoterms® aid in streamlining logistics and supply chain operations by precisely specifying the duties and obligations of each participant. They assist in determining the necessary documentation, such as commercial invoices, transport documents, and insurance certificates. This clarity and efficiency contribute to smoother transportation, customs clearance, and overall trade operations.

5. Risk Management and Insurance: Incoterms® play a crucial role in determining the point at which the responsibility in case  of loss or damage to goods transfers from the seller to the buyer. This information is essential for both parties to arrange appropriate insurance coverage for the goods during transit.

6. International Trade Compliance: Incoterms® help ensure compliance with international trade regulations and customs requirements. They assist in determining the responsibilities and obligations related to export and import documentation, customs declarations, and other regulatory compliance measures.

Overall, Incoterms in 2023 provides:

  • A globally recognized framework for international trade.
  • Promoting clarity and efficiency.
  • Fair distribution of costs and risks between buyers and sellers.

Changes in Incoterms 2020

In the Incoterms® 2020 edition, there are several notable changes compared to the 2010 edition, which is effective today. These changes include:

  • Renaming of DAT to DPU: The term “Delivered at Terminal” (DAT) has been renamed to “Delivered at Place Unloaded” (DPU). This change reflects the flexibility of unloading the goods at a place other than a terminal, allowing for greater versatility in choosing the place of delivery.
  • FCA allowing for Bills of Lading after loading: In the previous edition, FCA required the seller to obtain a Bill of Lading before the goods were loaded onto the carrier. However, in the 2020 edition, FCA allows for issuing Bills of Lading after the goods have been loaded, providing more flexibility in the loading process.

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